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Kristin A. Kennedy ’87
Water, Wellness and A New Way to Heal

Kristin A. Kennedy ’87

Walking up to the door of Aquabilities in Birdsboro, Pa., the smell of chlorine instantly takes you back to the swim lesson you took as a child.

As you open the door you are greeted by a friendly staff member and a wall of brightly colored goggles and swim gear. This week, a sign posted on the counter reads “Happy Anniversary: Thirteen Years.” For co-owner Kristin A. Kennedy ’87 it’s just another day as a massage therapist and aquatic specialist at a job she loves.

Aquabilities offers medical massages and massage therapy, water fitness, land and water physical therapy, aquatic personal training, fitness classes, year-round swim school and aquatics for individuals with disabilities.

Kennedy graduated with a major in psychology and a specialization in developmental theory. While working as a day camp and adult recreation instructor at Albright, her love for aquatics and massage grew. Over the years she has served as the president of the National Swim School Association (now called United States Swim School Association), helped to develop the aquatic fitness instructor certification course with the United States Water Fitness Association, and has been an instructor trainer for the American Red Cross in water safety instruction, lifeguarding, CPR and First Aid.

She attended aqua therapy school at what is now Cortiva Institute, studied at the Upledger Institute in Florida and opened her first Aquabilities facility in Birdsboro, Pa., in 1993. A second facility, in Blandon, Pa., followed in 2003.

One of seven masseuses on staff, Kennedy works with various therapies including: mechanical link, a manual therapy that addresses tension in the facial system; lymphatic drainage, which is used for the purposes of purifying, detoxifying, rejuvenating and regenerating fluids, tissues and the immune system; and cranial sacral, which influences the functioning of the central nervous system.

No longer just a way to relieve stress, massage therapy is a real medical treatment, Kennedy says.

For those who have had an accident or a fall, she recommends the sooner a person can come in the better to prevent inflammation.

Various massage techniques can also help those who suffer from fibromyalgia syndrome or multiple sclerosis, as well as the elderly.

Some insurance companies are even starting to look at medical massage as alternative medicine. “I’m seeing a growing trend in fitness, massage, nutrition and body work,” she says.

However, there are circumstances where massage therapy is not the best option. Kennedy recommends that patients seek a medical opinion before they start. “We don’t do body work if a person has blood clots, or on people with high blood pressure,” she says.

Understanding the complexities of humans plays a key role as well. “We must look at someone’s wellness in a spiritual, emotional and physical well-being,” she says. This way of thinking helps to find a person’s injuries. Looking at each person as a whole being, and then taking each part of the body as its own separate identity is very important to both medical and non-medical massage. What makes her job so special?

“Helping people is why I do it,” she says.“The fun is finding change in a person’s life where there wasn’t one before.” Kennedy recalls one of her patients who was in a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis. “I had the pleasure of seeing her walk and being with her when she took those first three steps without any aid. She still walks with a cane for small distances,” Kennedy says proudly.

Founded on the belief and knowledge that every person has the ability to participate in, receive physical benefits from, find pleasure through and gain greater self-awareness from aquatic activities, Aquabilities’ mission is to facilitate healing on multiple levels through physical training and education. The goal, she says, is to restore and advance each individual to his or her maximum ability level.

Kennedy’s philosophy is simple: “Live each moment alive and well… Wellness is a way of life. Be sure to nurture your heart, your mind, your body, your soul…”

– Caitlin A. Scribner ’07

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